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Zahida Hafeez

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  1. First Assignment: STORY STATEMENT Against the backdrop of the Afghanistan conflict and new elections for Pakistan, an American doctor, Sophie, wants to save a teenage patient, Sultana, from prostitution in Lahore, Pakistan, but discovers that she is up against a whole system involving politicians and elites, even perhaps the husband of a soon-to-be assassinated female minister. Second Assignment: ANTAGONIST Tina is a wealthy, middle-aged philanthropist who runs an art school. As the wife of a large landowner and politician, she has become corrupted by power. For the purposes of teaching and commissioning nude paintings, she uses prostitutes and teenage models from Lahore’s ancient red light district, the Diamond Market. In Pakistan’s socially conservative environment only desperately poor and vulnerable women can be convinced into becoming nude art models, for not only is nude art banned in Pakistan, it carries severe legal punishments as well. Tina is also deeply ambitious and wants to get elected to office. In order to curry favor with political stake holders, she turns a blind eye to the exploitation of young, underage girls in Pakistan’s art world and illicit sex trade. Tina and Sophie become acquainted through fundraising for a women’s hospital. When Sophie discovers Tina’s deceit, she realizes that rescuing Sultana from prostitution might risk Sultana’s life. If the walls of the red light district enslave the girls on a symbolic level, the halls of pseudo-democratic power filled by corrupt politicians will lead them to death. Tina’s powerful political connections also threaten Sophie’s father’s well-being all the way in America. Third Assignment: BREAKOUT TITLE 1. Diamond Dust, the Last Courtesan 2. The Diamond’s Song 3. Song of the Last Courtesan Fourth Assignment: COMPARABLES 1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini 2. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Both books are similar to mine in being plot-driven literary novels with strong social commentary, memorable characters and unique settings. They appeal to the same readership). Fifth Assignment: Logline LOGLINE: Grieving a miscarriage and her father’s death in the mid-2000s, an American doctor, who is born and raised in a small town in Wisconsin, returns to her ancestral home in Pakistan to carry on her father’s dreams of starting a free clinic for the poor. Here she crosses paths with a teenager who is about to be sold into prostitution. In both saving the girl and running her clinic, she hopes to make herself feel whole again, but the risks of these actions are far greater than she imagined and involve confronting political elites with influence that traverses borders. Sixth Assignment: Inner conflict and Secondary Conflict INNER CONFLICT Inner Conflict/Scenario for Protagonist #1 (Dr. Sophie) Doctor Sophie’s relocation to Pakistan presents challenges of physical discomfort, red tape and corruption in running a clinic, and while she isn’t someone who gives up easily, her grief from a miscarriage and father’s death have induced PTSD and weakened her more than she realizes. Also, she feels culturally at odds with the local Pakistanis and even phony at times when she is trying to save the world, always questioning herself and her sincerity. When she comes across a sick, limping teenage girl, who may be about to be sold into prostitution as indicated by her conspicuous nose ring, she sends the girl off without treating her. Sophie’s confused instincts due to the newness of the setting and her weakened will put the girl’s life in danger, pushing Sophie on a mission to search for the girl and pull her out of prostitution. Inner Conflict/Scenario for Protagonist #2 (Sultana, or Diamond Dust): Sultana, also known as Diamond Dust, lives in the red-light district, but wants out from the world of courtesans and generational prostitution after her mother’s death. She is naïve in thinking that the new brothel Madam and societal norms will release her from her almost inevitable destiny as a courtesan’s daughter and granddaughter. SECONDARY CONFLICT: For Dr. Sophie: Sophie has some unfinished business back in the U.S. related to her pending divorce. Meanwhile, the building housing her free clinic for which she pays no rent due to the kindness of her great uncle, is under pressure to be sold and she needs to raise money quickly or reverse her hard toil of the last few years of setting up the clinic. For Sultana: Sultana’s way to pay off her madam is to be a nude model for art projects curated by a wealthy philanthropist, Tina, who has political aspirations. Nudity and nude art are banned in Pakistan, and Tina suppresses her ties to this illegal exploitation of underage models like Sultana. FINAL ASSIGNMENT: Setting The story is partially set in a rural Wisconsin town and the state capital, Madison. However, the events of the primary conflict take place amid the brothels of the oldest red-light district known as the Diamond Market, which is located within the confines of the ancient walled city of Old Lahore. The novel charts the dying world of generational courtesans while showcasing Pakistan’s corrupt political class. The two female protagonists meet at a rally for the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, one of her last before Benazir’s assassination a month later. Sub-settings include the homes of the wealthy. One of these houses is the site of a nude modeling session where the teenage prostitute-in-waiting, Sultana, is assaulted.
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